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Write By the Rails Blog Spot- Philippa Ballantine!



A Visit with the Queen

By Philippa Ballantine

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, is the steampunk series I write with my husband, Tee Morris, and I hope it is as much fun to read as it was for us to write.

In case you are wondering Steampunk is a form of science fiction set usually in Victorian England. Here’s a bit of a deeper explanation from our website.

The Ministry is a department of Queen Victoria’s government that explores the strange, the unusual, and the bizarre that the police are not equipped to handle. It is also active all over the British Empire, so there are lots of stories from all over the world.

The main characters that we first started writing are Eliza D Braun and Wellington Thornhill Books. Eliza is a secret agent from New Zealand, who because of some rather unfortunate incidents in the field, is demoted down to the archives of the Ministry. Wellington is the Chief Archivist with plenty of secrets of his own, but he seems—at least initially—to be rather stuffy and addicted to rules and regulations. Eliza soon discovers cold cases in the archives, and drags Wellington along with her to investigate.

So far the series includes, anthologies, short stories, free podcasts, a roleplaying game (launching soon) and three novels.

For something that started as a bit of a lark between Tee and I when I was living in New Zealand and he was here in Virginia, it has certainly gone far. It’s won lots of awards, and been a Locus Bestseller.

Book Three is Dawn’s Early Light, and is coming out on March 25th.  To give you a little taste, here is a sample of the very first chapter. Eliza and Wellington have been dispatched to America, but on their airship journey there, things have already gone awry.

Getting a summons to appear before Her Majesty the Queen was something that Doctor Basil Sound had not been expecting. Not today. Not even this week. In fact, when the message had arrived through the pneumatic delivery system and Miss Shillingworth presented it to him in his office, the Director of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences had quite lost his appetite. He’d pushed away the ham sandwich he’d just been ready to devour, and read the note with growing trepidation.

Despite the stack of papers on his desk, and a full afternoon of meetings scheduled with his agents, he’d risen quickly from his work, told Shillingworth to cancel all of his appointments, and caught a hansom cab to Buckingham Palace.

His mind was whirring as he went, his thoughts not even scattered by the rumbling of the occasional motorcars. Perhaps signs of technological progress like that would have held his attention, but unannounced summonses such as this rarely, if ever, meant good news. Though he always maintained as jovial an exterior as possible when dealing with his Ministry staff, that always melted away the closer he drew to the heart of the British Empire. Once he had an ally in the Crown; but according to the clockwork model in his office and calculations from the Restricted Area, the Queen’s favours were nearing an end.

Sound adjusted his gloves and watched out the window as his hansom approached the broad façade of Buckingham, its smooth white edifice with the new east wing presenting a strong, indeed stern, face to the great, unwashed masses. It conveyed all of the majesty of the Empire, but none of its humanity.

A commentary, he mused as they rolled up to the gates, on the state of Britannia.

Reluctantly surrendering his place in the cab, he stepped down, and presented the message to the Royal Guard on duty.

He in turn fed the message to the tiny cryptoregister that sat in his station. The device gobbled up the paper, and in the process read the almost invisible series of indentations on the paper itself. If it did not match the code for that day, or indeed had none at all, things could get intimate between Doctor Sound and the fixed bayonet on the end of the Guard’s rifle.

Hope you enjoyed a little taste. Thanks to Kristy for hosting it on her site. Don’t forget to check out Write by the Rails, which is full of a diverse range of amazing writers. You can find out more about the Ministry at our site, and me here.

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  1. One of my favorite aspects of the MOPO series is the banter between Eliza and Wellington. It’s what makes the series work, just like the Downey/Law Sherlock Holmes movies. Readers will love the dichotomy (and chemistry) between this very different pair from page one.
    Nick Kelly recently posted…Guest Blog & Podcast: Tee Morris & Pip BallantineMy Profile

  2. Pingback: Write By the Rails Blog Tour Recap!

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